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Back From Eastern Cape South Africa!


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#1 Leo

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:02 PM

My buddies and I met up at the Dulles airport in Washington DC. We got on the plane very excited only to sit in the runway for 3 1/2 hours before being cleared for take off! Argh! Not the way to start a 17 1/2 hour plane flight!

Finally when we touch down in Johannesburg RSA and spend the obligatory hours clearing firearms with customs we head to the Afton Guest House to get some much needed sleep.

A couple of my friends relaxing at the Afton Guest House after a hard days travel.

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The next morning we gather up our stuff and head back to the airport to fly to East London. Checking the firearms is much easier this time since we now have permits in hand. This short 1 1/2 flight goes easily without a hitch.

We are greeted by several members of Huntershill staff who load our stuff into trucks for our 3 1/2 hour journey to the 55,000acre Huntershill game farm.

We finally arrive at the lodge. I see safari trucks ready to go. It's a beautiful place.

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The lodge sits in the shadow of an extinct (thankfully) volcano. The peak in the center of this picture is the formerly "angry" mountain.

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This small chalet will be my home for the next week.

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#2 Leo

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:03 PM

We sit down to a fabulous steak dinner at this table. Three meals a day are prepared by a on site 5 star chef. You will not go hungry at Huntershill!

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This warm fire is at the other end of the dining room table every night. May is winter in South Africa and it's warmth is most welcome!

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We all have a great meal and retire to our chalets looking forward to the hunt that finally starts tomorrow!

Lots of good trophies to dream about in the Lodge!

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From left to right:
Common Reedbuck (obscurred by lamp sorry), Mountain Reedbuck, Vaal Rheebok, Waterbuck, Duiker (top), Steenbok (bottom), Bushbuck, Nyala and Impala.

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Eland

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From left to right:
Kudu, Copper Springbok, Black Springbok, Common Springbok, White Springbok, Gemsbok, Burchells Zebra, and Kalahari Springbok

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Yep it's a Fallow deer. They have them here. They call them "Takbok's". They are introduced and they get big here. Very hard to get one here though. They are supposedly very elusive in these hills and thick valleys.

View from the front of the lodge.

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#3 Leo

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:04 PM

First day!

This morning we had a great breakfast of eggs, bacon and wildebeast sausage. I stared at the coy pond in front of the lodge while Randy and I waited for the trackers to pack a cooler full of water for the trip.

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I also see a reminder that toilet paper does not grow on trees in africa.

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We go to the firing range and each check a rifle zero. My 300wby is good to go and so is Randy's 30-06. We both decide to check the back up rifles later and get hunting!

We chase Black Wildebeast all morning. See some great bulls but can't make it happen. We return to the lodge for lunch a whole lot sorer and more tired than I expected to be after a half day of hunting. These hills are steep and rocky. Walking up and down them takes it out of you. Even riding in the truck is like going offshore in rough seas. You are always holding on to something! Springbok hamburgers for lunch are absolutely fantastic.

We finish up lunch and are back at it. Still going to look for a black wildebeast but I've told the PH (Francois) that I also want a blue wildebeast. We spot a group of blue's on the way out. The herd bull is the biggest I've ever seen including my two previous visits to south africa. Francois and I go for it. The bull keeps hiding in the center of the herd preventing a clear shot opportunity. The fourth time Francois sets up the sticks the bull finally steps clear at 262yards. I take aim, squeeze, hear the bang and the loud thwack of my bullet. Off the blue goes! He's definitely hit but still very mobile. "Shoot again!" I do at over 300 yards. I miss! "Again!" Over 400 yards! I shoot again, the bull disappears in heavy brush. We take off after him! We get to the heavy brush he was entering at the lost shot and there is NO BLOOD! He's laying right there where my last shot pole axed him! I look at the PH and tell him frankly that was just luck on my part. 400 yard running shot? No way that was anything but a lucky shot. I'm tickled pink. This is a really good Blue Wildebeast bull and I know it!

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We try to at least get Randy a springbok before calling it a day but we don't connect.

Day 2

After another hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and wildebeast sausage we set out for another crack at a Black Wildebeast. Randy is up today. We find a herd. Francois and Randy make a stalk but get busted. We find another herd. Francois and Randy make another stalk and get busted again.

We headed back to the lodge for lunch and sighted in our back up rifles right after lunch. Randy decides he wants to hunt bushbuck. That will require him to move to another farm for at least a day and a half. I opt to stay put. I'm beat ragged from yesterday and the almost endless chase this morning. I bid him good luck and expect to take the afternoon off. My buddy Will is there waiting for a hippo tag he plans to hunt with his bow. He offers to let me tag along for the afternoon and see what we can find. We drive to a high spot and glass a valley. About a mile down in the valley we spot a herd of Black Wildebeast and carefully make our way down into the valley. It's steep, rocky and incredibly rough. I have to stop and rest halfway down. I find myself longing for a sit in a hide with my bow! Finally, we sneak into about 130 yards using an old shack as cover. This is perfect! Then I feel what every hunter hates. The wind hit the back of my neck! Game over! The whole herd takes off and stops about 356 yards out. The herd bull is a real monster. I have my 30 06. I'm glad it was a lighter rifle for the stalk down into the valley but regretting leaving my flatter shooting 300wby at the chalet. I just can't get steady enough on the sticks to take the shot. The grass is much too high for the bipod. I watch the herd move off again. We try five more stalks. The wind is fickle and swirling and spoils the chance for a shot every time until the last stalk. Finally, I'm within 160yards. I set up for the shot. The grass is too high for the bipod. The sticks barely get me above it. It is less than ideal but the way the wind is swirling I know I only have seconds to take the shot. So I take the shot. I'm not high enough over the grass. The bullet sails over the bulls back and the herd vanishes into the next valley. We start the climb out of the valley to a road where the truck can pick us up. When we finally get there we collapse and watch the sun start to set.

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Even the tracker Victor takes a seat and enjoys the sunset.

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Randy will be gone all day tomorrow. Will still doesn't have the hippo permit but it looks like he will get it soon. I will join them again tomorrow.
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#4 Leo

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:04 PM

Day 3

Today is an early start. Toast, a banana and a cup of coffee is my breakfast. We pile into the truck and leave before anyone else.

We take a long bumpy ride to the top of one of the highest peaks on the property. We split up and glass all sides of it. I spot some eland and a small waterbuck bull. Suddenly I'm being signalled to one side of the peak. There is a big waterbuck bull. Get your rifle. I run back to the truck get my rifle and back to that side of the peak. Meanwhile they watch the waterbuck go behind a bush. I get there and I'm told he is just behind that bush. I don't have the advantage of actually seeing which bush out of the thousand bushes I can see on the hillside the bull went behind. They keep saying. "That bush!" I keep saying, "WHICH #^^*$*#% bush?!!" There's a thousand bushes down there! Finally the bull steps out from behind the bush and I see his white circled rear end. He is a shooter for sure but I'm not taking a 250 yard rump shot. The bull continues straight away and enters a thicket at the bottom of the valley. We make a plan to cut him off at one end of the valley. Long story short and one heck of a lot of walking later, I collapse on a peak opposite of the valley and wait for the truck. We never glimpsed the bull again. We head back to the lodge for lunch. My bones are liquified, my muscles are jelly. I'm truly done for the day. They offer to take me back out but I just can't. I go back to the chalet, take a hot shower and collapse in bed until dinner time. Will's hippo permit comes in. I won't be going with them tomorrow. Randy and Francois return for dinner. They didn't get a bushbuck. They just got rained on hard. We didn't get any rain. Go figure. The rest did me some good. I'll feel up to it tomorrow.

Day 4

We try to get another early start. A fog has rolled in making it pointless to hurry. We eat a full breakfast. After an hour of searching we locate a herd of Black Wildebeast in the bottom of the valley behind the truck.

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I wait by the truck while Randy and Francois painstakingly pick their way down into the valley without spooking the herd. It takes them about an hour to close the distance.

I'm watching through binoculars and suddenly the herd starts to trot off! Bang! The bull hits the dirt as if struck by lightning and starts doing the Curley shuffle. Five seconds later the bull jumps to it's feet and takes off! Suffice it to say we put the dog on his track several times, covered several miles and finally caught up with him in a thicket in the bottom of one of the valleys. Randy's first shot was at 8:30am we did not anchor the his bull Black Wildebeast until 11:00am.

We eat a big lunch of Kudu steaks and potatoes. Get a little rest and head back out for the afternoon. We spot a lone blesbok on a flat. He is a good one and probably recently kicked out of the herd for being too old to keep up. This is the perfect one to try for. We quickly get on him and close the gap to 275 yards. He spots us! I quickly set up on the sticks and take the shot. The bipod is a major problem when shooting off sticks. I can't get steady enough. I hit the blesbok and break a leg. The tracking dog (Roy) takes off after him. I start running too. Which for me is slower than most folks can run after a vasectomy. Roy manages to subdue the blesbok running circles around him. I take a frontal shot that penetrates the chest and blows the blesboks guts out. He's still standing with his guts hanging out! This is getting really ugly! Roy jumps between the blesboks horns and latches onto an ear! The blesbok shakes Roy like a rag doll while Roy stays determinedly clamped to that ear. My PH fearing the blesbok will kill his dog runs in to save him. Roy releases and the blesbok charges my PH. My PH catches the blesbok by both horns and wrestles it to the ground. A tracker jumps in and they finish the blesbok off. After my second shot we could have just backed out and waited for the blesbok to expire. If the dog hadn't jumped in, we would have. Thankfully the dog and the PH received no injuries from the melee.

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Some of the blood on Roy is his own but nothing remotely serious. The ear he was clamped on is clearly bloody. The taxidermist will need to do a little repair work. What an intense experience!

Here Roy is giving the blesbok a good final butt chewing.

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We call it a day. BBQ tonight! Ostrich sausage, Wildebeast and Lamb chops!

Day 5

Fog again this morning. We decide to get to a peak and wait for it to burn off. Randy has decided he wants a blue wildebeast as well. We are seeing so many good blue wildebeast every day he feels the need to get one. We get to the top of a hill in choking thick fog with fifty yard visibility. We settle down and wait for the next hour for it to burn off. Soon we spot some red hartebeast. One decent bull in the group but not one you can't turn down. I tell myself maybe next time. We spot some giraffes and zebra. Then finally some blue wildebeast appear. There is a shooter bull with the herd. We head towards them in the truck and suddenly they pop up 200 yards away. Randy jumps out and gets in position. Bang! Thwack! Right in the shoulder. The Blue runs about 150 yards. Stumbles and dives right off a cliff!
We reach the spot and can see the bull down the cliff and jammed between two boulders. We have to go back to the lodge for help. It takes seven guys and a winch 2 1/2 hours to retrieve the bull.

We take our time eating lunch. I take a nap while Randy waits and gets pictures of his bull.

We go back after them late today. Try a stalk on some springbok. I get a 70 yard chip shot at one at the base of a very steep hill. I forget to hold lower for the steep shot and absolutely blow it. Clean miss. I'm sick to my stomach. I have zero experience shooting up and down hill. The highest elevation where I live is up stairs. To make matters worse, I was shooting off sticks again. The bipod is really making it tough to hold steady. Too much weight on the front end of the gun. I resolve to take the bipod off tonight.

Randy gets a 250 yard opportunity at a springbok and nails it with his 25-06. It's dead right there. We are thankful for the lack of drama!

We head back to the lodge. We spot some big boulders that suddenly start moving!

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We finally get a better look.

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The rhinos decide they don't like us and chase us in the truck for the next few hundred yards.

Dinner and bed. Will had no luck with the hippo. It's coming out after dark. He's going again tomorrow.
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#5 Leo

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Posted 28 May 2014 - 04:05 PM

Day 6

Very early start. Quick breakfast hit the ground running. We spot some springbok. Make a stalk on them. Seventy yard shot again. No bipod. Less elevation difference. My kind of shot! I blow his heart out of his chest. He still runs thirty yards on empty. But no drama and no tracking required. It's 8:15am. We're pumped with the whole day ahead.

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I take the opportunity to take some pictures of some lions in the electric fenced area near the lodge. Every morning their roars woke us up.

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We get ready for an early lunch and a long afternoon of hunting. We are just about to sit down and Bruce radio's they've found an enormous waterbuck if I still want one. We take off and go after him. We meet Bruce at the peak and send trackers into the valley to flush him. Forty five minutes later we spot the waterbuck. He had snuck between the trackers unseen and was sneaking out the back side of the valley. He was 700 yards out but through the binoculars I could clearly see he was at least a 30 incher with tremendous mass! We marked where he was going and backed out and ate lunch waiting for him to settle down.

We went back out to get the trackers driving the bush again. They jumped him the first hundred yards. We circled around to cut him off and once again I got a look at him 700 yards away. An absolute giant! We try the rest of the afternoon to get him but somehow the trackers get confused and drive the wrong bottom.

My PH feels like we have a chance tomorrow morning since the bottom we believe he is still in was undisturbed. Randy is hunting for another week. Tomorrow is my last hunt. We back out and go back to the lodge for dinner. Randy agrees we should try for him tomorrow morning.

Day 7

I can barely choke down breakfast. Lots of pressure today. A lot of effort chasing this waterbuck if I get the chance I gotta make it good. I took my 300wby. I would shoot as far as I had to today!

We drive to the bottom we last saw him. The trackers push the bottom. NOTHING! He's gone. No clue where he is. At 10:30am I suggest we try for a black wildebeast again.

We drive out to a spot we'd seen some good ones. And they were amazingly right where we expected them. We snuck in to 160 yards. This time the wind behaved. I settled into the sticks. Bang! Thwack! Flop! "Well done!" said Francois. Then suddenly he was back up like Lazarus running the base of a hill. He could only go two directions. I took one side of the hill and Francois raced to the other side. I told him to anchor him if he had to.

Ten minutes pass and I see Francois coming back in the truck.

"He got away he says."

I bow my head and fold my right ear forward.

"Hit me right here." I tell him pointing at my skull behind my ear.

"I'm just joking.", he says. "We got him and he is a monster!"

And he is!

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I told Randy I was done. We still had three hours left to hunt and it was all his. We found a huge herd of Red Hartebeast and the herd bull was tremendous. Randy and Francois made a good stalk and they drifted into a small plain. The tracker and I pushed the plain from the other side and drove the Hartebeast right past them. Randy got his crosshairs on the big bull and was just about to pull the trigger when Francois stopped him. There was a cow right behind the bull and he would have shot both. They stayed in tandem like that until they melted into the bush. Randy was disappointed but still very excited by the hunt. About 50 red hartebeast had filtered past them. It was a great effort.

Randy is still hunting. I'm going home happy. Not getting the waterbuck was a bummer but just getting to see him was amazing. Now to start saving again! It took three years to make this trip happen. Maybe I'll get lucky and it won't take so long the next time.

And yeah. I think there is gonna be a next time.
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#6 PA RIDGE RUNNER

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Posted 29 May 2014 - 10:11 AM

Wow what a story!!  At times I felt like I was right there with you.  Congratulations on your trophies.  They look grand.  After reading your post(s) I think I need a rest.


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#7 Coalman

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 12:06 PM

What a hunt. Congrats Leo!


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#8 silvertip-co

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 07:35 AM

:thumbsup:Congrats on great hunts and kills. It must really be something to do that.


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#9 Leo

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Posted 08 June 2014 - 12:31 PM

:thumbsup:Congrats on great hunts and kills. It must really be something to do that.

I have been truly blessed with the opportunity to go to South Africa a few times. Honestly, the trip there and back is brutal but I would surely endure that again no question.
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#10 REDGREEN

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Posted 10 June 2014 - 05:44 AM

As usual, great hunt and narrative, Leo. You might have to go hunting for a new house now, so that you have the room for all of these new trophies. Congrats!



#11 Leo

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Posted 10 June 2014 - 07:10 AM

As usual, great hunt and narrative, Leo. You might have to go hunting for a new house now, so that you have the room for all of these new trophies. Congrats!

That hunt is also over. We'll be moving this summer. Going to the upstate. We are moving up in house and down in expense.
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